I've been a reader for over 50 years. I've read a lot of good books, and some not so good. And I've heard other writers talk about the craft and about books in general. From all of that, following are some common missteps in the area of world-building. (And yes, I've been guilty of most of them at one time or another.) All identifying logos have been removed and serial numbers have been filed off or otherwise obfuscated.
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If I'm going to write in contemporary Earth settings, if I'm using a city for my setting du jour, I'd best know its geography well. For example:
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Animals are not machines. Yes, an ox or a donkey or a horse can work all day, much as a human can. However, a hard-working animal needs rest and water and food on a regular basis, just like a hard-working human does.
Although I am not a horse person, I know some, and I am reliably informed that, despite what Hollywood shows us, a horse cannot gallop for hours and hours on end. Oh, a willing horse might attempt it at the urging of his rider, but if pushed to the limit the horse will drop, exhausted, and will most likely die. I mean, after all, can you sprint all out for six hours at a time? Neither can a horse.
And it might surprise you that a horse, traveling at a reasonable pace, doesn't really travel that much farther than a man over the course of a day.
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As remarked back up the chain somewhere, major characters should not have similar names, especially if they are also very similar characters. (The thought bears repeating.) It might be considered a characterization issue, but I'm more of the opinion that it's one of world-building. Wherever you pigeonhole it, it is confusing to the reader. I recently "awoke" in the middle of the novel I'm currently working on and realized I had two major characters named Thomas and five characters (three major) named George or Georg. I was getting confused; never mind what this was going to do to my prospective readers! So unless that confusion is something you need for the story, you might find another name for one of them.
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Western European culture is considered by many to be an aberration in the history of culture in the world. (I'm not too sure but what I don't agree with them.) Because of this, we need to be very careful about projecting our 21st century Western cultural mores (political, religious, sexual or otherwise) on earlier periods and places of history.
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Cloth (This last one may be less an "Oops" moment and more a chunk of "trivial" data that you may find useful.) I must stipulate that I am not a Clothing Expert. These are just a few things I've picked up along the way, mostly from writing in the 1632 universe.
Pre-industrial societies did not have an abundance of cloth, and what they did have was not for the most part very brightly colored, or at least, not for very long.
Cloth and clothing after the industrialization and mechanization of the cloth industry is a very different topic. Someone (not me) should do a post on that some time.
First published on Fictorians.com 6/24/2011.